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Key Takeaways

  • An RV AC breaker that trips is usually caused by an overloaded breaker, a dirty air conditioning unit, a blown-out AC fuse, a grounded compressor, a damaged or faulty capacitor, a short-circuited AC motor, or a broken circuit breaker.
  • Replacing an RV AC costs between $700 and $1,400 for the unit alone. A professional installation will normally be around $700 to $1,400 for the unit and labor.
  • An RV circuit breaker costs around $100 to $200, but with labor, you can expect to pay $425 to $1,200.

If your RV’s air conditioning unit keeps tripping your camper’s breaker, you are not alone, but what can you do to fix this issue?

An RV AC breaker that keeps tripping is likely caused by an overloaded breaker, a dirty air conditioning unit, a blown-out AC fuse, a grounded compressor, a damaged or faulty capacitor, a short-circuited AC motor, or a broken circuit breaker.

After extensively researching RV troubleshooting forums, I have been able to gather enough information to determine what causes an AC to trip a breaker. My research has indicated that multiple factors may be contributing to this issue and you should consider all possible solutions when trying to resolve your RV’s circuit breaker trip.



Reasons an RV AC Can Trip a Breaker

Although your RV’s AC is not the most important part of your vehicle, you certainly want it working before your next road trip. Despite this being a non-essential component of a camper, I find it is often one of the most maintenance-demanding features of an RV.

Air conditioning units notoriously cause a wide variety of issues and the one that I tend to encounter quite frequently is an AC unit that keeps tripping a breaker. A lot of RVers run into this issue and, most of the time, it is not very difficult to resolve, as you should be able to get your unit back on track without needing to seek professional help.

Before you can fix your AC and breaker, you need to first figure out what is causing it to trip. There are a number of different things that can contribute to this issue and you need to go through a process of elimination to isolate the problem and resolve it.

Overloaded Breaker

Air conditioning units can be quite taxing on a breaker and they are often what causes them to trip. A 50amp service RV can provide 12,000 watts, which should be enough to take care of most of your energy needs. However, it can be easy to overlook just how much power you are using once you start running multiple appliances at the same time.

The most common issue behind an RV AC that keeps tripping is that the breaker is simply overloaded. Each RV is different and you should ultimately reflect on your owner’s manual to find out what your vehicle’s energy threshold is.

A quick and easy way to test this is to simply unplug some of your RV’s other appliances and then turn on your AC to see if the problem persists. If your air conditioner starts working, you will have found the source of the problem.

Dirty Air Conditioner

You would be surprised by how many issues built-up dirt and debris can cause for your RV and AC. If it’s been a while since you did a deep clean of your RV and its components, then there’s a good chance that your camper’s breaker keeps tripping because the AC is simply dirty.

Cleaning an RV AC is an easy thing to overlook, but this is actually a maintenance task that you should try to do every 3 to 4 months - especially if you are using your vehicle a lot. With that said, there are a couple of different parts of your air conditioning unit that you need to clean.

AC Exterior

The first place that you should start is the exterior of the unit. Your RV’s exterior catches a lot of dirt and debris when you are on the road and you want to keep the shroud, cover, and all external components as clean as possible.

Simply going around on the surface of the exterior and wiping away all of the dirt and gunk will do wonders for the air quality that you receive inside and it may even clear up the issue with your breaker tripping.

Air filter

After cleaning the AC’s exterior, you should clean the air filter. This will require you to have a screwdriver handy so that you can remove the shroud and cover of the unit.

The air filter is not hard to access and most units are designed so that you can clean them very easily. I find that warm soapy water is all that you need to thoroughly clean an AC air filter. If it’s been a while since you changed your AC filter, it may be a good time to buy a replacement altogether.

Condenser Coils

If you have already cleaned the air filter, then you should have removed the shroud and cover of the unit. This will give you access to the AC’s condenser coils.

Unlike the exterior and air filter, the condenser coils are more delicate components that you want clean carefully. It’s easy to damage them which results in costly and unnecessary repairs. Although some people just use soap and water to clean their condenser coils, I do not recommend that you do this.

Given how easy these are to break, you should buy a condenser coil cleaning product that was designed specifically for this component. Follow the instruction of the product closely so that you do not risk damaging your condenser coils.

AC Compressor Issues

Your AC unit’s compressor is one of its most essential components and it’s often the reason behind a breaker that keeps tripping. Depending on what the compressor issue is, it’s either a pretty straightforward fix or it may require replacing the part.

Blown AC Fuse

The most common issue that would cause a compressor to fail is a blown-out fuse. Your AC unit has a fuse that protects it from excessive currents. If you encountered a situation where too much current was sent to the air conditioner, the fuse would have blown.

This is not a difficult fix and you can find a new fuse for your AC online or at an RV service center. The one thing that you want to do is make sure that you get the correct fuse for your unit by finding one with the correct amperage rating.

Grounded Compressor

If the compressor is grounded it means that one of the electrical components inside the unit is broken. Unfortunately, your only real solution is to replace the compressor at this point.

I would recommend that you have a professional look at the compressor to confirm that it’s actually grounded before you go out and buy a replacement. The compressor is one of the most expensive components of your AC and replacing it can cost anywhere from $200 to $450 (or more) depending on the type of unit that you have.

Short-Circuited AC Motor

Your AC unit has a motor that can break over time. Whether is excessive currents or just wear and tear, the wires can get damaged, which causes the entire motor to short-circuit.

Once the short is there, it will continue to trip the breaker until the motor is replaced. With expert knowledge and skills, you may be able to trace the source of the short and replace a specific wire or component. Otherwise, buying a new motor or unit will be required.

Damaged or Faulty Capacitor

You can normally determine if your AC’s capacitor is bad by checking how the unit responds before the breaker trips. If the air conditioner has a hard time starting and then the breaker trips immediately once it does, the capacitor is likely causing the issue.

Replacing the capacitor is the only way to fix this issue if it is faulty or damaged. However, before you go out and buy a replacement, I suggest that you take a closer look at your AC unit for more reassuring signs that this is in fact the issue.

A telltale sign of a bad capacitor would be a burning smell or any signs of smoke. If you spot these indicators, replacing the capacitor will solve the issue of your breaker tripping.

Broken Circuit Breaker

If you have crossed all other possibilities off, then there is a good chance that your circuit breaker is causing the problem - not the AC. I highly recommend that you make sure that the AC was not causing the issue first, but if you have already eliminated all other possibilities, it’s time to start looking at the breaker.

Check to make sure that all of the beaker’s wires are properly connected. If all connections are solid, then you will likely need to replace the breaker to resolve the issue.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace an RV AC?

The majority of the time that you encounter a problem with your RV’s AC and breaker, you can troubleshoot the issue and fix it with minimal expenses. However, there are going to be a number of instances where the damage is severe and the only way to get your RV fully operational is to replace the unit.

AC units are designed to last roughly 4 to 8 years, so if it’s past its prime or has seen some abuse, it may be time to buy a replacement. The cost of a replacement can vary depending on the unit, but you should expect to pay anywhere from $700 to $1,400 just for the AC.

If you need professional help with the installation, this is going to end up costing you around $1,000 to $2,000, as labor can almost double your costs.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace an RV Circuit Breaker?

There are certain scenarios where the circuit breaker is behind the issue and not the AC unit. If that’s the case, your best course of action is going to be to replace the circuit breaker.

Replacing an RV circuit breaker is generally a bit cheaper than buying a new AC unit, as you can find breaker boxes between $100 and $200. With that said, installing the breaker can be tricky and costly, as most shops will charge you anywhere from $425 to $1,200 for the price of labor and parts.